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April 15
2024

ISSUE

Spring 2024

Oregon Rising: Celebrating a Milestone First Anniversary

By NAOMI GOLDMAN

VES Oregon members judge submissions for the 22nd Annual VES Awards.

VES Oregon members judge submissions for the 22nd Annual VES Awards.

VES Oregon members and guests gather in Portland for pub nights.

VES Oregon members and guests gather in Portland for pub nights.

VES Oregon members and guests gather in Portland for pub nights.

The Visual Effects Society’s worldwide presence gets stronger every year, and so much of that is because of our regional VFX communities and their work to advance the Society and bring people together. The VES Oregon Section was established as our 15th VES Section in 2023 and has quickly grown into a vibrant community of artists and innovators in its inaugural year. VES Oregon boasts a dynamic membership that reflects the talented makeup of the area’s visual effects community, with about 85 members primarily working in film and television, and drawing from studios and VFX houses including LAIKA, Shadow Machine, Refuge VFX, Hinge, Crafty Apes and ILM.

The regional visual effects industry is experiencing a big growth spurt, creating new opportunities to work on film, episodic and commercial projects. “We are seeing a massive influx of VFX artists, especially from California, migrating up here,” said Allan McKay, VES Oregon Co-Chair and Visual Effects Supervisor at Refuge VFX. “That inflow is vastly expanding the skills and abilities that Supervisors can tap into, which is vital as we have more demanding work and an escalated need for more diversified and senior talent.”

VES Section leadership is very proud of what they accomplished in their first year, rich with events and a smart community-building strategy. “We are so fortunate to have a great group of volunteer leaders on our Section Board of Managers,” said Eric Wachtman, VES Oregon Co-Chair and CG Supervisor at LAIKA Studios. “Right out of the gate in Year One, we’ve held a BBQ, holiday party, screenings, recruitment events, and our whole team has carried the weight. Our members are invested, and we are getting good turnout from the community. Everyone has stepped up, and it’s a stellar collaborative team.”

“I’m so blown away watching everyone come together and work with such passion and focus,” said McKay. “2023 was such a rough year, so having a sense of community, especially here, where we’re a bit off the grid, has been vital as a place for us to come together as a community.”

VES Oregon Section events in 2023 included a robust screening program, hosted in Portland venues including: McMenamins Bagdad Theater, McMenamins Kennedy School and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) theater; a family-friendly Summer BBQ at Camp Rivendale in Beaverton; and a festive first annual Holiday Party, hosted in concert with Autodesk. And, 2024 kicked off with a VES Awards nominations event, a galvanizing gathering for the new Section.

McKay continued, “Reviewing all that we achieved as a new Section, we want share our special gratitude to some of our Board of Managers colleagues: Thank you to Maria Fery for your hard work and creativity in planning our parties and events; to Holly Webster for taking on our screenings series with such dedication; and to Michael Cordova for planning our first VES Awards nominations event with such enthusiasm.”

VES Oregon members and guests celebrate at the Section’s first annual holiday party and ugly sweater contest, co-hosted by Autodesk.

VES Oregon members and guests celebrate at the Section’s first annual holiday party and ugly sweater contest, co-hosted by Autodesk.

VES Oregon members and guests celebrate at the Section’s first annual holiday party and ugly sweater contest, co-hosted by Autodesk.

In doing the work to establish the Section locally, Wachtman, McKay and others were a strong presence at industry events around town, Autodesk parties, job fairs, and they did a lot of recruiting within their own companies, noting that almost half of the Section’s current members work at LAIKA. The Section has branched out into in-person pub nights and a robust slate of film screenings open to member guests and prospects.

“This past year was focused on creating community and a sense of awareness and visibility, and establishing a cadence of communications,” said Wachtman. “Looking ahead, we’ll have more diversity on our events and educational, social and career development programming, but with a keen eye to ensure that our energy, plans and culture are sustainable – and that our future leadership inherit a strong foundation. It’s about smart growth.”

In talking about his points of pride as a VES member and part of the Oregon VES community, Wachtman observed: “Coming up as a VES member, I always wanted to help create a Section, to offer benefits to the local community and tether us closer together. The VES is all about showcasing the work, and the more we can highlight what we’re making up here in Oregon and support each other through our local network, the greater the opportunities and experience for us all. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point – and there is more of that ahead – but the payoff has been so rewarding, and I’m grateful for what we’ve accomplished.”

McKay also shared his thoughts on his VES experience: “I was always aware of the VES and its respected role as the professional side of the industry. Being affiliated has offered an enhanced sense of legitimacy and respect, which I value. Especially in coming to Oregon, a region rich with talent but fragmented, it is important to have a community that gives voice to all of us from different backgrounds and convenes us together. Ten years ago, there was a finite number of cities recognized for their VFX talent. VES Oregon exemplifies that there is talent all over the world worthy of recognition – and this community gives us strength in numbers.”

VES Oregon members and guests celebrate at the Section’s first annual holiday party and ugly sweater contest, co-hosted by Autodesk.

VES Oregon members enjoyed a family-friendly Summer BBQ at Camp Rivendale in Beaverton.

VES Oregon Co-Chair Allan McKay. VES and Oregon Co-Chair Eric Wachtman.

VES Oregon Co-Chair Allan McKay.


VES Oregon Co-Chair Eric Wachtman.

VES Oregon Co-Chair Eric Wachtman.



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